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​Pitt Scientist Awarded Funds for High-Risk, High-Reward Biomedical Research

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PITTSBURGH – A researcher who conducts cutting edge studies in the field of systems biology has been named a 2018 Searle Scholar, one of the country’s most competitive awards for an early career investigator. Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis, Ph.D., assistant professor of computational and systems biology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, will receive $300,000 over the next three years to support her research.

The Searle Scholars Program funds exceptional young scientists who participate in high-risk, high-reward independent research and have recently become tenure-track assistant professors. Each year, 15 new individuals are named Searle Scholars and, since its inception, the program has awarded more than $134 million in funding.

“Anne-Ruxandra is an outstanding young investigator who has taken bold and innovative approaches to addressing fundamental questions in evolutionary biology,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Pitt’s School of Medicine. “This is a well-deserved award and we are proud to have one of our faculty chosen.”

Carvunis’ research aims to answer a simple question – “What makes each species unique?” – by understanding how cells and organisms evolve. More specifically, her work focuses on addressing questions such as how new genes can emerge from scratch without having parent genes; how networks of interacting molecules form and change within cells; and how these networks differ across species.

“Receiving this award is a huge honor, and the best possible form of encouragement as I begin my career,” said Carvunis. “My goal is to understand how living systems innovate. The funds generously provided by the Searle Scholars Award will allow me to reach this goal.”

“A characteristic of all of the new scholars is their willingness to take on ambitious and often risky research projects that, if successful, will have enormous impact in their scientific fields,” said Doug Fambrough, Ph.D., scientific director for the Searle Scholars Program. “This has always been a defining attribute of Searle Scholars and it is remarkable how often those projects succeed.”

Carvunis has received other awards, including a medal of Honor for her doctoral work from the University of Grenoble, the L’Oreal-Unesco Award For Women in Science, and the Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health.